It was another rollercoaster weekend for Oilers fans. You were on a high after Friday’s convincing victory over Chicago, but the winning ride didn’t last long after yesterday’s loss to the Florida Panthers.
We are officially past the halfway point of the NHL season, with only the Rangers, Canucks, Panthers and Blue Jackets not playing 41 games, but we’ve seen 627 of 1230 games played.
Here are some thoughts on the first half and some expectations for the second.
- Six players are on pace for 50 goals. Tyler Seguin, Rick Nash, Vladimir Tarasenko, Steven Stamkos, Joe Pavelski and Alex Ovechkin. It is very doubtful all six reach the half century mark. The last time the NHL had six 50-goal men was in 1994 when nine players did it.
Since the start of the 2003/2004 season, the only western conference players to score 50 goals were: Jonathan Cheechoo (56 in 2006), Jarome Iginla (50 in 2008), and Corey Perry (50 in 2011).
The East has had fifteen 50-goal seasons in that span: Ovechkin did it five times, (2006, 08, 09, 10 and 14), Dany Heatley (2006, 2007), Ilya Kovalchuk (2006,2008) and Steven Stamkos (2010, 2012) twice, and Jaromir Jagr (2006), Vincent Lecavalier (2007), Sidney Crosby (2010) and Evgeni Malkin (2012) once.
Stamkos and Oveckin, based on past history, are the best bets to score 50 goals. Pavelski and Nash’s career high is 41 goals, Seguin’s is 37 while Tarasenko’s 23 goals this season is the most he’s ever scored.
The west hasn’t had two 50-goal scorers in the same year since Teemu Selanne (52 in Anaheim) and Pavel Bure (51 with Vancouver) did it in 1998.
I love goals, so I’m rooting for at least two of Tarasenko, Pavelski and Seguin to reach 50.
- Sadly, no player is on pace to score 100 points this year. Jakub Voracek is the closest, with 50 points in 42 games. The last time the NHL didn’t have a 100-point scorer was in 2004 when Marty St.Louis led the league with 94 points. The league averaged 5.13 goals/game (6,318) in 2004, and this season teams are averaging 5.36 goals/game (3,363).
As a fan of offence, I think it is bad for the league when you don’t have a 100-point scorer. Less offence is not good for the game, and the games become harder in the second half of year, usually, so it is very possible we see the leading scorer finish with fewer than 100 points.
- I mention these numbers because we are hearing a lot of McDavid/Crosby comparisons. McDavid is an excellent player, but he will not score 102 points as a rookie like Crosby did in 2006. In 2006, the NHL brought in the shoot out, but they also clamped down on obstruction. It led to a huge increase in goals, averaging 6.05 goals/game (7,443) an increase of 1,125 goals from 2004.
We saw 6,573 goals last season, 5.34/game, and I don’t see anything in how the game is being played that leads me to believe we will see an increase anytime soon. I don’t find hockey nearly as exciting as it used to be. There is way too much focus on defensive schemes and video sessions to allow players to excel offensively. I’m not sure what the NHL can do to change it, but they need to change some rules to increase scoring.
People need to temper their offensive expectations of McDavid and Eichel heading into next season.
- Leon Draisaitl has three goals and four points in three WHL games with Kelowna. I expect he finishes the season close to two points/game with the Rockets.
- OKC is 10-2-1 since Todd Nelson was recalled to the Oilers. Nelson had built a strong foundation and Gerry Fleming has done a great job since being promoted to head coach. The farm team is playing great, but don’t expect many of them to make the jump to the NHL next season. Martin Marincin will be in the NHL next season, but other than Brandon Davidson, Iiro Pakarinen and maybe Curtis Hamilton, I don’t see any skaters who are close to being NHL ready.
OKC is getting great goaltending from Richard Bachman and Laurent Brossoit. Bachman is a not an NHL goalie, but Brossoit is developing nicely. Bachman has a 2.20 GAA and a .925 sv%, while Brossoit has a 2.43 GAA and .922 sv%. They are basically splittling duties, Brossoit has played 79 more minutes, and next season the Oilers should let Brossoit play 70% of the games. No one should expect him to be in the NHL next year. We need to see how he can handle being a #1 goalie in the AHL first.
- I noticed much excitement about Nail Yakupov and his two-point game on Friday. The Oilers desperately need to him to keep developing, but no one should get too excited over one game. Yakupov’s effort has never been a concern for me. I think his work ethic is fine most nights. Clearly he is lacking some offensive confidence, and Friday’s game should help him with that, but the area he needs to work on the most to become a productive player is on-ice awareness. If he can improve his puck support and where he goes on the ice, then he could become a solid 2nd liner. Some of that improvement will come from coaching, but much of it will come from the player himself.
I’m not concerned he will bolt for the KHL this summer. He wants to play in the NHL, but his progression, for me, won’t solely be about points. Of course he needs to produce, but if he shows improvement in his overall positioning and thinking of the game, then he well could be a consistent 20-goal scorer.
- Before you scream and yell about Yakupov only being a 20 goal-scorer, keep in mind how difficult it is to be a consistent 30-goal scorer in today’s game. In the past four seasons we have seen 81 players score 30 or more goals. Nineteen did it twice, but only Jarome Iginla, Corey Perry, Patrick Marleau, Patrick Sharp and Phil Kessel did it three times. Ovechkin scored 30+ in all four seasons. Becoming a consistent and regular 20-goal scorer would make Yakupov a solid second line player in today’s game.
- The NHL all-star rosters were announced on the weekend and between now and the game we will read many articles on what is wrong with the all-star game. I don’t understand why people expect the game to be intense. Why do you need it to be? It is a chance for fans in the host city to see the best players up close and for the NHL to schmooze sponsors. Just accept the game for what it is. You will never get players to go all out, and you shouldn’t. Would any fanbase want one of their best players hurt in a meaningless all-star game? I sure wouldn’t.
- The Nashville Predators are implement a new policy making it more difficult for fans of opposing teams to buy tickets to games in Nashville. Is this a good idea? Would you want this in Edmonton?